Bark carving representing an emu

British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This is a unique surviving Aboriginal ceremonial carving. It was made in the mid-nineteenth century by people who lived around the Murray and Loddon Rivers in northern Victoria. John Hunter Kerr, a Scotsman who settled near the Loddon people, joined them in some activities, participating in hunting expeditions and observing certain ceremonies. He collected the etching along with a range of other objects and also took some photographs. The carving was made from the bark of a River Red Gum and has a painted design in red ochre and white clay. It represents the silhouette of an emu. It was carried by a dancer in a dance ceremony that Kerr witnessed. He described how the dancer 'imitated the gait of the bird, while the others danced around'. Kerr exhibited his Loddon collection at the Melbourne Exhibition in October 1854. It was then sent to another exhibition in Paris but when that closed it was dispersed and mostly lost. The emu was acquired by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London and transferred to the British Museum in 1880.


  • Title: Bark carving representing an emu
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 69.00cm; Width: 30.00cm; Depth: 2.70cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Registration number: Oc,+.1281
  • Production place: Made in Fernyhurst
  • Place: Found/Acquired Fernyhurst
  • Peoples: Made by Dja Dja Warrung
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: bark
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Collected by Kerr, John Hunter

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